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Bible Studies for Life Sunday School Lesson for January 23

The Pitfall of Betrayal

Genesis 37:1–5, 19–24, 26–27

God is at work, even when it’s not obvious.

The longer I live, the more I understand that everyone will face times or situations of hurt. It may come from the loss of a friend or the loss of a job.

However, the deepest hurts come when we face betrayal, perhaps at the hands of someone we trusted, and now they have betrayed that trust. Harder still is when that betrayal comes from within our own family. Someone has said that when we are hurt or betrayed, we either “get better or bitter.”

In today’s lesson we are eyewitnesses to the betrayal of Joseph by his brothers. God had big plans for Joseph; He had revealed a wonderful future through various dreams. But before those dreams could become reality, God needed Joseph to grow up.

Sometimes pitfalls come through no fault of our own. (15)

Joseph was a precocious child, the youngest of Jacob’s sons, born to him in his old age and one of the sons of his favored wife, Rachel. As a demonstration of his deep affection for Joseph, Jacob gave him a fancy coat of many colors. It must have been striking. As the youngest brother, Joseph enjoyed his special, favored position, and was happy to share the God-given dreams of his family’s subservience to him.

Animosity and jealousy can cause others to betray us. (1924)

In Joseph’s naivete, perhaps he believed his parents and siblings would affirm and celebrate his vision. Instead, upon hearing of the dreams in which he was exalted and they were diminished, his brothers became jealous of Joseph’s favored place and teenage arrogance.

Jealousy finds its root in covetousness. Author Margaret Atwood writes, “You can only be jealous of someone who has something you think you ought to have yourself.” Jealousy caused Cain to murder his brother, Abel. It caused Haman to plot against Mordecai. It drove King Saul to seek David’s life. Proverbs 14:30 (ESV) says, “For jealousy makes a man furious, and he will not spare when he takes revenge.”

The brothers’ jealousy turned to anger and hatred that ultimately led them to plot Joseph’s demise.

God is at work on our behalf even when others abandon us. (2627)

Romans 8:28 reminds us that He is “working all things together for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Jesus said, “My Father is always working” (John 5:17). In Joseph’s case, God used his brother Reuben to save his life. Rather than see Joseph killed, Reuben convinced his brothers to throw Joseph into an empty cistern, a pit in the desert. However, God had a much greater plan for Joseph than merely survival. God also led his brother Judah to deliver him from the pit in the desert, and Joseph was sold to Midianite traders and taken to Egypt.

Someone has said, “When you’ve lost everything, and Jesus is all you have, you find out that Jesus is really all you need.” Isaiah 54:17 says, “No weapon formed against you shall prosper.”

Have you experienced betrayal? The most important lesson to learn from Joseph’s example is people will fail us. They will betray us, but God is at work. God will use the trials that come with betrayal to wean us from depending on anyone other than Him.


By Don Fugate
Fugate is senior pastor at Foxworthy Baptist Church in San Jose, California.

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